An effort to build a Pike Place-inspired market in the Tri-Cities has been renewed, with two potential locations in Pasco.
Advocates of a public market are eying the Columbia River waterfront, just east of the cable bridge, or the downtown area, and the Port of Pasco and the city are on board with the idea.
The two municipal entities have agreed to split the estimated $30,000 cost of a feasibility study to see if the project will work in Pasco and which location “will provide the best likelihood of success.”
A public market is open year-round and features vendors with regional crafts and locally prepared food. Only about 5 percent of what’s for sale in a public market is on the fresh produce side, so it would not compete with the farmers market.
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Mayor Matt Watkins says the concept of reconnecting the city to the river at the former Marine Terminal site is laudable. It’s also a benefit to consider expanding on the existing Pasco Farmers Market footprint with updated public amenities.
“I support it and would love to see how this works out in detail,” Watkins said at the March 27 city council meeting.
This comes nearly one year after the city of Richland rejected a proposal to add a public market to its plans for “the pit” location at 650 George Washington Way.
The Tri-Cities Public Market board had envisioned a local version of Seattle’s Pike Place Market or Wenatchee’s Pybus Public Market for the 2.7-acre property at the gateway to Richland. The board worked with Aaron Zaretsky, a public market consultant who was a past director of the Seattle market.
However, city officials decided to go forward with office, retail and residential development for the site.
Adam Brault, president of the nonprofit board, said they looked at other options in Kennewick and Pasco, then contacted Gary Ballew with the Port of Pasco to see if there was interest.
Ballew, the port’s director of economic development and marketing, feels the public market ties in with the port and the city’s shared goals of further developing the downtown and the waterfront.
The port, city and market board would need to work together on a public-private partnership that ultimately would help east Pasco and the entire Tri-City area, Ballew said.
“A public market will act as an anchor for real estate development, but also more interesting, it will act as a catalyst. And that really gets into the community aspects of … engaging a space, of humanizing a space,” Ballew told city council members.
“That’s why, when we go to Seattle, we’re drawn to places like Pike Place Market, because there’s a lot of people there, there’s a lot of things going on. It’s a very active area.”
Pasco Councilman Saul Martinez thinks it is a wonderful idea, he said. He recalls being a kid when the river area was alive with grain elevators, grain brokers and trucks.
“It would be exciting to see that get revitalized,” he said. “I can see that in conjunction with Clover Island and other areas, and it would really liven up east Tri-Cities.”
A public market will act as an anchor for real estate development, but also more interesting, it will act as a catalyst.
Gary Ballew, Port of Pasco
Ballew and Brault acknowledged that neither site in Pasco meets all the criteria, but each has advantages.
The consultant recommended a 35,000-square-foot space, which also would require parking for vendors and shoppers.
Downtown Pasco has some empty buildings and vacant lots, but parking would be a little tricky. Meanwhile, the waterfront is a blank canvas and would require construction, yet it has good access to Highway 397 and the river and is less than a mile to downtown.
Ballew noted that it’s also just less than one mile over the cable bridge to the future Columbia Gardens Urban Wine and Artisan Village. He said they’re hopeful the new project on Kennewick’s East Columbia Drive will be “wildly successful,” because then it may be easier to draw redevelopment across the bridge into Pasco.
“We’re looking at a market that, regardless of your income, you’d be able to find something there. … A market that attracts pretty much everybody,” Ballew said.
Brault said the board is passionate about creating a place that represents the diversity, uniqueness and value of the Tri-Cities in one building with all local fare. The board also recognizes it will take a lot of public education on the project, fundraising and grant writing to push it forward.
“Our intent is to put in a lot of work from that nonprofit in trying to make this a reality,” said Brault, who was joined at the recent council meeting by fellow board members Jillian Cadwell and Craig Maloney.